I'M in an airplane, strapped into my seat, no way to escape. For an hour we've been taxiing around Miami International Airport while lightning tries to hit us. Earlier I was hoping that the plane might at some point actually take off and fly to our intended destination, but now I'm starting to root for the lightning, because a direct strike might silence the two women sitting in front of me. There's only one empty seat between them, but they're speaking at a decibel level that would be appropriate if one of them were in Cleveland. Also, they both have Blitherers Disease, which occurs when there is no filter attached to the brain, so that every thought the victim has, no matter how minor, comes blurting right out. This means that the rest of us passengers are being treated to repartee such as this:
First Woman: I PREFER A WINDOW SEAT.
Second Woman: OH, NOT ME. I ALWAYS PREFER AN AISLE SEAT.
First Woman: THAT'S JUST LIKE MY SON. HE LIVES IN NEW JERSEY, AND HE ALWAYS PREFERS AN AISLE SEAT ALSO.
Second Woman: MY SISTER-IN-LAW WORKS FOR A DENTIST IN NEW JERSEY. HE'S AN EXCELLENT DENTIST BUT HE CAN'T PRONOUNCE HIS R's. HE SAYS, "I'M AFWAID YOU NEED A WOOT CANAL."
First Woman: MY BROTHER-IN-LAW JUST HAD THAT ROOT CANAL. HE WAS BLEEDING ALL OVER HIS NEW CAR, ONE OF THOSE JAPANESE ONES, A WHADDYACALLEM, LEXIT.
Second Woman: I PREFER A BUICK, BUT LET ME TELL YOU, THIS INSURANCE, WHO CAN AFFORD IT?
First Woman: I HAVE A BROTHER IN THE INSURANCE BUSINESS, WITH ANGINA. HE PREFERS A WINDOW SEAT.
Second Woman: OH, NOT ME. I ALWAYS PREFER AN AISLE. NOW MY DAUGHTER ...
And so it has gone, for one solid hour, a live broadcast of random neural firings. The harder I try to ignore it, the more my brain focuses on it. But it could be worse. I could be the flight attendant. Every time she walks past the two women, they both shout "MISS?" It's an uncontrollable reflex.
"MISS?" they are shouting. "CAN WE GET A BEVERAGE HERE?" This is maybe the fifth time they have asked this.
"I'm sorry," says the flight attendant, with incredible patience. "We can't serve any beverages until after we take off."
This answer never satisfies the women, who do not seem to be fully aware of the fact that the plane is still on the ground. They've decided that the flight attendant has a bad attitude. As she moves away, they discuss this in what they apparently believe is a whisper.
"SHE'S VERY RUDE," they say, their voices booming through the cabin, possibly audible in other planes. "THEY SHOULD FIRE HER." "YES, THEY SHOULD." "THERE'S SUPPOSED TO BE BEVERAGE SERVICE." "MISS??"
It's a good thing for society in general that I'm not a flight attendant, because I would definitely kill somebody no later than my second day. Recently I sat on a bumpy, crowded flight and watched a 40-ish flight attendant, both arms occupied with a large stack of used dinner trays, struggling down the aisle, and a young man held out his coffee cup, BLOCKING HER PATH, and in a loud, irritated voice said, quote: "Hon? Can I get a refill? Like maybe today?"
She smiled - not with her eyes - and said, "I'll be with you as soon as I can, sir."
Oh, I'd be with him soon, all right. I'd come up behind him and strangle him with the movie-headphone cord. "Is that tight enough for you, SIR?" would be the last words he'd ever hear. Then I'd become a legendary outlaw flight attendant. I'd hide in the overhead luggage compartment and watch for problems, such as people flying with small children and making no effort to control them, people who think it's CUTE when their children shriek and pour salad dressing onto other passengers. When this happened BANG the luggage compartment would burst open and out would leap: the Avenging Flight Attendant of Doom, his secret identity concealed by a mask made from a barf bag with holes in it. He'd snatch the child and say to the parents, very politely, "I'm sorry, but FAA regulations require me to have this child raised by somebody more civilized, such as wolves." If they tried to stop him, he'd pin them in their seats with dense, 200-pound airline omelets.
Insane? Yes I'm insane, and you would be, too, if you were listening to these two women.
"MISS??" they are saying. "IT'S TOO HOT IN HERE." "CAN WE GET SOME BEVERAGE SERVICE?" "MISS???"
And now the pilot is making an announcement. "Well, folks," is how he starts. This is a bad sign. They always start with "Well, folks" when they're going to announce something bad, as in: "Well, folks, if we dump the fuel, we might be able to glide as far as the mainland."
This time the pilot announces that - I swear I am not making this up - LIGHTNING HAS STRUCK THE CONTROL TOWER.
"We could be sitting here for some time," he says.
"MISS????" say the women in front of me.
No problem. I can handle it. I'll just stay calm, reach into the seat pocket, very slowly pull out the headphone cord . . .
Dave Barry's column appears Monday on The Times' editorial page.